AirB&B and TripAdvisor: your personal pillow and guide

Chartered financial planner, Sybille Essmann, gave herself a sixtieth birthday gift of ticking off some travel bucket list items.  In this article, she shares the benefits of AirB&B and TripAdvisor.

I would consider myself an intrepid traveller. Throughout my eight months exploring the East, followed by a further nearly five months in South America, I rarely knew more than a week in advance where my compass was heading; if there was one thing that would take me out of my comfort zone, though, it was not knowing where I was going to put my head down at night.

In the East, I had made extensive use of the TripAdvisor App which I had loaded on my trusted iPad mini. TripAdvisor lists hotels, B&Bs and hostels in nearly all parts of the world. What made it attractive for me was that fellow travellers are invited to review the various establishments which meant I could make an educated decision as to where I wanted to book. The app has links to various booking agencies such as Agoda, Bookings.com and Hostels.com and securing a booking by means of my credit card was child’s play. Because I was so grateful for honest appraisals, I became an enthusiastic reviewer, not only of accommodation but also of listed restaurants I frequented and things I had done in places I visited. I believe, to date, close on 24 000 people have read my reviews.

When I started planning my trip to South America at the beginning of 2015, I needless to say consulted TripAdvisor and I was mortified at the cost of accommodation in São Paulo, Brazil where even a modest hostel room would have set me back a pretty penny.

Intrigued when I perchance came across a link to the AirB&B website, I investigated further and found that the website had been started by a couple of entrepreneurial students that rented out their living room with three air mattresses during a sold-out trade show in 2008. From these humble beginnings, AirB&B now has a footprint in over 191 countries with over 1,5million listings from shared space in family homes to mansions, castles or even luxury yachts.

My first AirB&B experience in São Paulo was so memorable that it became my preferred choice of accommodation throughout my travels through South America. I was amazed that even when I clicked on the remotest village in the far flung Andes, I would find an AirB&B room.

As with TripAdvisor, AirB&B has a very user-friendly iPad app; once I had downloaded it, I created a personal profile with a picture, a short bio and credit card details. When booking, I would enter my parameters such as dates, price range, single room and then choose my accommodation based on favourable pictures, how many stars had been awarded and reviews from other travellers. My booking request would be forwarded to the host and they, in turn, could scrutinise reviews other hosts had posted on me and then agree or not agree to entertain my booking. I use the word “entertain” advisedly, because I can unreservedly say that every host, without exception, made me feel exceedingly welcome, offered invaluable advice and a wealth of information and some even went as far as collecting me from the airport after midnight or taking me to catch my transport before the sun rose. The room might not have always been five-star, but I am forever grateful for the impact these fine people made on my life. If you want to really get to know a country intimately, AirB&B is the way to go.

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My wonderful host family in Belem, Brazil that collected me from the airport after midnight when my flight was delayed

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My AirB&B in Rio de Janeiro had a beautiful rooftop terrace overlooking the Copacabana (this was not my bed!)

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